Messaging 125 years ago

Remember when messaging was not a verb?

A few years ago I scanned almost all of my photos and threw away the originals. I kept a few to make hands-on albums and I also ended up with some post cards that I had had for years. Several of them I had pinned on bulletin boards because I thought they were funny or appropriate. Recently I decided to scan those and as I looked at them more closely, I realized that this is how people ‘messaged’ so many years ago. A couple of the post cards are from my grandmother, a few I bought in Istanbul, and several are addressed to various people at the various addresses in Toronto. Those last post cards were in an old drop front desk that my mother bought many years ago. I remember it had been painted an awful shade of pink but it was full of these old post cards. At the time I collected stamps, so I steamed off some of the stamps and kept some of the cards. I imagine the postal service was much better then so that the messages would arrive sooner than later. I could also see the sense of humour in the often unknown sender. I want to share them here. Since they are hard to read,  I will also type in what they say.

cairo 2027The oldest card is from 1902. It wishes this person happy new year. At the time I believe Egypt was still under the Ottoman Empire. Since it was sent to Sister Jeffcott at the military hospital, I wonder if she was a nun or a nurse or both and of course I wonder if the sender was a man (I tend to think so) and if he was a friend, colleague, soldier, patient. This is one of the cards I bought in Istanbul some years ago.


ceylon shave 2037Another one I bought there was this one from Ceylon. Ironically, I ended up knowing several people from what is now known as Sri Lanka. This card was sent in 1907 and the sender at the end joked about having to go for a shave.


The next few post cards were in the desk. The first one is from 1907. It was sent from Fergus, Ontario, a small town in Southern Ontario. Now it probably takes an hour to get there from Toronto, but I am guessing that at that time it took several hours or more. This is what is says, as best I can make it out:

fool at 40 2036

Dear sister

a line to let you know that we are all well and hope you are the same I have see those picture and think they are fine I want one of them when you get them love from Laura and Stanley

ladies 2029The follow-up post card says

Dear sister I got your letter to night and picture to


The next post cards are to people in the Bond family, including James Bond. Little did he know…

triplets 2035This one says only Speak quick L.Z.C Of course I wonder if it was because someone just had a baby (babies) or is getting married, or what. This is to Will Bond.

hands across the sea 2034Bond, James Bond, received this card at work. Perhaps the sender was his colleague. It says

Quebec. Thursday. Royal George Delayed. Fogg + snow. Fine + dandy. Have one. WCBullock

I actually really like this card and have used it on my facebook page because I have many old friends across the sea.

elect 2032The next card must be to James Bond’s wife. Sent from Toronto in 1911. Notice that it is Bell telephone linemen. I wonder if that was a hint for mother to get a phone.

Dear Mother

Just a line. I will not go down to Will’s on Sunday as I have several things to get for babe + do not want to spend the time to go down town.


Presumably the above-mentioned Will is her brother.

full up 2028I also liked this card a lot, as I often had guests staying with me. Also, this past summer I went over the French River in Muskoka. It says

French River Muskoka

having some very pleasant sailing up the Muskoka Lakes. G.M

church 2031The last one from this family is the longest one.

Prince Albert Ont. June 1 1914

Dear Aunt Jane + Uncle Jim:

I am sending a few lines to let you know that Mrs Neal is here and dangerously ill with “Inflammatory Rheumatism”. The doctor says it will be sometime before she is able to start on her journey. He took her ticket to see about having it extended. She came back from Cartright last Wednesday and had been sick all the time over there. Has been in bed ever since she came back. We were doing the best we can to get her well again. Are you coming to the “Old Boys Reunion”? Sincerely yours– Effie Bond

Poor Mrs. Neal! I am sure they have all succumbed by now…

bunnies 2033The last post card I have had for years and had never read the message. This one is from my grandmother to my aunt.

Tues. am.


(Letter to-morrow)

Dear Rossie– So glad to get your note. Poor child you must be dead. It is simply lovely of Mrs. Start to have you there. Joyce and Allan dropped by for ten minutes at noon + had a quick lunch. Please phone Mrs. Reid + ask her to note (?) Peter. + have the H.S. Come for him. I will give her the $1.00. Mother

Now I know there were phones then, but old habits must have died hard. Strange to see my dear grandmother’s writing here.

This was a pretty interesting history lesson for me.  I can see how we overlook familiar things but when we look more closely we can see how they tell a story.  There is nothing earth-shaking here, but interesting nevertheless.


The flying squirrel

The kitties were on alert. We got up to see what they were looking at. The little critter had climbed up the beam and was on one of the boards near the ceiling. My sister thought it was a mouse. I thought it was a small rat. It had big bright eyes and sat up to eat something it had found up there. We let it sit, as there was no way we could get it down. However, it came down on its own and the cats immediately went after it. It ran down the hall, so my sister ran to close the cats into the bedrooms. By then we could see that this was not a mouse, but a small squirrel. At one point it was going to go under the door but changed its mind when it saw a cat on the other side. We each grabbed towels so we could catch it. It ran from corner to corner of the hall as we tried to get it. At one point it ran up my leg and top and into my hair. I hunched over and tried to get to the door, but it jumped down before I made it. Finally it ran into a corner and I caught it in a towel. It was amazingly calm. Both its tail and head were sticking out as I got to the door and let it outside. It immediately ran up a tree and then to the bird feeder.

IMG_0844We both sat down to watch this little squirrel and noticed that it was different from the black, gray, and red squirrels that come around. This little guy had thin strips of flesh and fur along its sides and its tail was flatter and less bushy. It was a flying squirrel! Neither one of us had ever seen one before. It was very agile as it ran up the tree, jumped to the bird feeder, and gobbled down the seed. As it moved from branch to branch, it really did seem to fly as it spread its ‘wings’.IMG_0840

IMG_0003Unfortunately, there is a sad end to the story. Probably the reason the squirrel was in the house in the first place was that Ginger the cat had brought it in. In the wee hours of the morning, I awoke to hear a bit of a struggle and then a gnawing. Ginger had caught and killed our little visitor. We were both very sad but Ginger is an animal and the squirrel had evidently let down his guard. I am grateful for the opportunity to have come close to it, one of the many critters on this lovely piece of land.

And as a side note, my sister recently told me that Ginger had caught another flying squirrel, but it got away. It is good to know that there is a small family of them and one day we will see more.

books for starters

Sept. 2014

arent i lovely 1945 - Copy (2)My mother was a great reader and so am I. These days I don’t have a television or internet, so I am gobbling down books at the rate of one a day. I joined the library a few days ago– what a treasure trove! I took out four books and I am now reading the fourth one.

My sister has a lot of the books that have been on our shelves since before we were children. I remember reading the children’s books, which are in a box at my daughter’s house. But there are some other books which I had not read, in spite of seeing them on the shelves for years. When I left my sister’s, I brought some with me. One was called Ester Ried, which was inscribed Clara M. G. Armstrong, Otonabe, Xmas 1895. I started to read it, but it was quickly clear that it was sort of a missionary book and in spite of its age, I did not want to read it. However, there were two that I read with great pleasure.

plains of abrahamThe first was called The Plains of Abraham by Oliver James Curwood. This red volume had been given to my mother in 1941 from her Aunt Prim, (Primrose, her mother’s sister). It was set in what was about to be Canada in the late 1700s. The main protagonist is a young man named Jeems, the son of a Frenchman from New France and and English woman from the colonies. From childhood Jeems was sweet on Toinette, the daughter of the local seigneur, who had a mill a few miles from the home in the Forbidden Valley where Jeems grew up with his loving parents. Toinette spurned him, much to his heartache. Jeems’ uncle, Hepsibah Adams, was a man who spent much time trading and travelling in the wild. He knew many of the Indians, as they were called then, and taught Jeems some of the Seneca language. One day Jeems was in the forest with his trusty dog Odd (who had only 3 feet due to an accident). Odd seemed upset so they turned around and when they returned to the homestead found that his parents had been killed by Mohawks. He then went to the mill, where he found those people had also been killed. He fully expected to find Toinette’s body, but instead when he went into the mill, he found her with a musket, which she used to shoot him, injuring him. She had been taught to despise his family and was shocked to find that his family also had been slaughtered. They decided to escape but were found by some Indians, who turned out to be Seneca and were shocked that Jeems could speak some of their language. They were enemies of the Mohawk and decided to take Jeems and Toinette with them. The chief, Tiaoga, adopted Toinette as his daughter, since his own daughter had drowned not long before. The young couple were taken to the Hidden Village, which was near what is now Niagara Falls. There followed more heartrenching adventures which I will not tell here. In the preface the author tells us that his great-grandmother was Indian and the people he wrote about were real. It is an amazing story from the time when New France was becoming Quebec. It was a very good read and I was sorry I had not read it before. In fact, Curwood was a prolific writer and I hope to find more books by him at the library.

above suspicionThe other book was a birthday gift to my mother on her 16th birthday in 1942 by her friends Diana, Barbara and Mary Isobel Stedman, names I heard as I was growing up. By then the Second World War was in full swing and this book is set before the war actually started. Above Suspicion by Helen MacInnes tells the story of a young English couple who were asked by their old friend to meet with agents in Europe to ascertain that the agents were indeed still working. The couple were to be on vacation and were to arrange to meet various people in various European towns. One clue for the agents was the red rose that Frances wore in her hair as well as a song. Along the way they meet an American journalist and a young English man, who help them. Of course they all run into various adventures and have the opportunity to expound on the evil of the Nazis. One comment that I like was that the seeming efficiency of the Nazi clicking heels and abrupt salutes helped people to believe in them and covered up who they really were. The book was well written and as they travelled the descriptions of the places were interesting, though I wonder how much they have changed since then. This was another good read that I gobbled up.  (Note: as I was looking for an image for this, I discovered that it had been made into a movie and that MacInnes also wrote quite a few other books).

sugar camp quiltA newer book that caught my attention was The Sugar Camp Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini. My sister is a quilter, which is why I got it, read it, and passed it on to her. The sugar camp quilt was made by a young woman named Dorothea under strict instructions from her cranky uncle. He left it in the maple sugar cabin, much to her dismay, and after his death she and her parents learned that he left it there as a sort of map for black slaves escaping from the south. The cabin was a station along the underground railway. For a while in the story Dorothea is wooed by a young man, Cyrus, who moved on when he learned that she had no dowry. She was a school teacher who was supplanted by Nelson, who she did not like, but of course that changed. It was a good story and an interesting piece about the underground railroad. In fact, I heard many years ago that that railroad came up here as far as Barrie, to the Shanty Bay area. However, I don’t recall many black people in Barrie when I was growing up, so perhaps that was only a story.

one underA friend from Toronto brought me several books when she and her husband came to visit. She knows that I love to read, as she does. One of these books is one under by Graham Hurley. The title refers to the fact that a body has been run over by a train. The police set to unravel the story of the body and how it came to be there, with the main characters being Joe Faraday and Paul Winter. The latter has some old school methods of finding out things. The other characters include big time crooks as well as housewives that have gone astray. The ending was not predictable, which gets a high mark from me.

out stealing horsesOut Stealing Horses by Per Petterson was another one from my friend. It is the story of a 67 year old man who has bought a small cabin in remote Norway. As we hear his story we also hear the story of his father, who was a resistance agent during WWII. The young narrator told of how they stayed in a cabin on the river. The stealing horses part was early on, when his friend Jon invited him to steal horses from the rich man across the river. They didn’t actually steal them, just rode them. It turned out that Jon’s brother had accidentally killed his twin with Jon’s loaded gun. And just as accidentally, the surviving twin, Lars, was our narrator’s neighbour when they were both old. The story was interesting and easy to follow, another in the genre of Scandinavian fiction.

scottish prisonerAnd the first library books. The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon is part of The Outlander series. I had read The Outlander when I was in Istanbul, a good adventure. This one was also very good. Jamie Fraser was the main protagonist, along with Lord John Grey. They were set with the task of bringing Siverly to court-martial for corruption, among other things. They had to go to Ireland to get him, but they reluctantly accepted the company of Toby Quinn, who was hoping to get Jamie to take part in a new Jacobite uprising. Since Jamie was a prisoner because of that uprising, he did not want to take part in it, knowing that it would be futile. Of course there were many adventures and close calls, but also the friendship between the erstwhile enemies, Fraser and Grey, grew. The story ended but it was an open ending, so I am sure there are more to come.

invincibleI also picked up Invincible by Diana Palmer. It turned out it was a Harlequin romance type of book, where the virginal Carlie is at attractive odds with the Oglala Sioux Carson, an incredibly handsome loner of a wolf. The plot involved threats to Carlie’s life, as well as her father’s, a former free agent in the black ops. The plot was interesting, and the outcome was predictable, but it was a good read for a popcorn book.

dog will have his dayDog Will Have His Day by Fred Vargas was a French mystery. The protagonist, Louis or Ludwig Kehlweiler, was an odd sort of person whose mission in life was to find ‘bombs’, people who were evil, related to the Second World War, among other things. The dog in this story was one who had bitten the toe off an old woman who had been killed on the sea shore, though initially her death was considered an accident. Louis found a bone in the washed off dog shit in a public park in Paris. He took it to a very disliked commissioner, who poohed poohed it, which Louis used later to discredit him. Louis had help from Marc, a student of the Middle Ages, and Marc’s friend Matthias, who was a silent student of paleontology. Much of the story took place in a small seaside town in Brittany. The characters were interesting and the ending events were unexpected.

forgotten gardenThe last of the four books was The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. It was the story of Nell, who had been left on a boat that went to Australia, where she was taken in by the port master. It was also the story of her granddaughter Cassandra, who inherited Nell’s house in Brisbane and also an unknown house in Cornwall. Cassandra learned that Nell had a secret past that she was trying to unravel, so Cassandra went to Cornwall to unravel it herself. The story went back and forth from the time of Nell’s family to Nell’s trip to Cornwall and then to Cassandra’s trip there. One of the other main characters was Eliza Makepeace, a writer of stories for children. It was very interesting to follow the threads and of course at one point there was brief homage to Frances Hodgson Burnett, who wrote The Secret Garden. It was a good read as the threads finally came together to solve the many mysteries of this family. I also have to say I loved the picture of the fairies, as it reminded me of many books from my childhood (those being from my mother and my grandmother), which I am sure was meant to be. The story also makes one think about family memories and individual histories and how they affect each person directly or not.

Stay tuned for more! Even with internet now i am consuming books…